This paper discusses school violence and programs that may help to prevent it. (9+ pages; 4 sources; MLA citation style.
The growing violence in U.S. schools causes many problems. Certainly there is the fact that students and teacher feel unsafe, and may face the threat of actual injury; in addition, the violent climate in many schools makes it impossible for them to fulfill their mission of educating their students.
This paper discusses ways in which school personnel can reach out to all students to make them feel welcome and safe in school. It touches on the influence that peers and cliques have on students, and factors that should be considered in helping students accept one another. Finally, it briefly mentions a long-neglected aspect of school safety, the physical plant.
School violence has become a widely recognized problem, thanks (if ‘thanks’ is the word) to high-profile cases such as the Columbine school shootings. If nothing else, such horrific incidents served to bring the problem of school violence into specific relief, and programs evolved to meet it.
Any program dealing with behavior in school has to be flexible. First, it must provide appropriate intervention in cases of extreme behavior; second, it must provide support to those students who are not causing problems. In short, it has to function on several different levels simultaneously. (O’Neill, PG).
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O’Neill’s article discusses one such program, the comprehensive behavioral specialist (CBS) program. This course has evolved because studies found that teachers in general feel unqualified (1.71 out of 5.0) to handle disruptive students, particularly when that disruption includes a significant component of violence. In addition, the teachers felt that the support available to help them deal with disruptive students was very poor (1.27 out of 5.0).
The answer is the CBS program, a two-year Master of Science course based in the Special Education Department. (O’Neill, PG).
“The first year of the program involves a two-semester sequence of on-campus coursework and related field experiences. The two primary on-campus core courses … cover a broad range of behavioral assessment and programming strategies.” (O’Neill, PG).
O’Neill goes on to describe the degree requirements in general, but what it most important is that this program trains participants in assessment, management and programming. That is, they learn to assess what sort of behavior they’re facing (mental illness, learning disability, emotional problems) and devise a response based on their professional judgment of the situation. Training includes working with students for whom they “conduct complete functional assessments, including interviews, and direct observations and/or experimental manipulations. They then develop, implement and evaluate comprehensive behavior support plans.” (O’Neill, PG).
These situations involve working with teachers and other school personnel, including the student’s family. In addition, students also receive training in making school-wide needs assessments; compile lists of community resources, and learn how various area agencies function. (O’Neill, PG).
O’Neill reports that course participants report satisfaction with the training they have received, and felt well able to handle disruptive students, specifically, they felt the CBS degree work:
... the school safer and help staff feel more secure. Programs can include development of the ability to identify students at risk of anti-social behavior ... were intended to prevent or reduce school violence (These programs or efforts can include instruction, other services to students, or changes to classroom and ...
“(a) has been relevant to their interests, goals, and job demands; (b) has enhanced their skills in individual functional assessment and programming, classroom and schoolwide management, and consultation and collaboration with others; and (c) has been, overall, a quite satisfactory experience.” (O’Neill, PG).
A more objective measure of success comes from the fact that CBS degree program graduates have been hired away from their schools by other districts that recognized their value. Clearly, then, a program that gives individuals specific tools to assess behavior problems and implement strategies to control them is one significant tool in managing school violence.
Another outreach program is the “Hospitality Scale,” which measures the “extent to which [adolescents] perceive that they have social capital and the extent to which they provide social capital to others” while on the campus. (Cartland, PG).
The study wants to determine if there are some environments that aggravate “social isolation”—a contributing factor to school violence—more than others. And conversely, are there school environments that diffuse social isolation and make violence less likely?
Cartland writes that students who are “different” (gay, minorities, disadvantaged) may find environments that are welcoming, intolerant, or neutral. But if the student finds a school culture that is inclusive, that increases “the number and quality of social resources to which the individual can turn when a problem arises.” (Cartland, PG).
The “Hospitality Scale” measures how welcoming or threatening a school feels to new students. Cartland describes the final version of the “Hospitality Scale” scale (it describes both giving and receiving social capital) thus:
“The final version of the I Feel at Home subscale included five items: (1) I can talk about my problems with at least one person at school; (2) There is an adult at school who cares about my feelings; (3) I care about quite a few people at school; (4) If something bad happened to a friend, I would get help from an adult at school; and (5) I enjoy coming to school. The final version of the I Make Others Feel at Home subscale included four items: (1) If someone were sitting alone in the lunchroom, I would probably offer to sit with him or her; (2) I feel that I am partly responsible for helping to make this school a good place; (3) I find the ideas of people of other races, religions, and nationalities interesting; and (4) I like others to share their ideas with me.”
... are private schools. While early intervention is absolutely necessary to help prevent violence, I believe all school operations and ... Some districts are restructuring schools to increase student engagement, attendance, and performance. School reform programs around the country, ... to vandalism and violence. Unfortunately, schools in urban areas, where violence can be a particular problem, are among ...
This is a quite a different approach and hasn’t been studied in detail, yet it seems to hold promise for resolving some of the problems of school violence, particularly as it is inclusive of minorities and others who might be described as “at-risk” for violent behavior.
IIIPeers and Cliques
For students at middle and high school level, the most significant factor influencing behavior is probably peer pressure. Parental influence has waned by this point, and students are taking cues from each other and from the groups or cliques to which they belong. Thus, a group in which some members use violence may be transformed into a group in which every member accepts violence, because students today live in a society that condones it. One particularly disturbing 1991 study found that of 3,357 middle-school Indiana students, “several hundreds” approved of violence in both domestic relationships and with their peers. In addition, a majority approved of the use of violence in “some” situations. (Danne, PG).
The message to students from the media (TV, movies, video games), from families and from society itself is that violence is an acceptable problem-solving technique. Faced with a culture that approves of the use of force, what can be done?
Danne suggests that ideally, intervention should start in the home, because that is where most students are first exposed to violent behavior. Once the child enters school, intervention programs can help, but they must “recognize the developmental stage of the targeted children.” (Danne, PG).
That is, they must be appropriate to the age and skill level of the children involved. “Violence-prevention programs aimed at younger adolescents should also address academic performance and behavior problems, because these are often the first indicators of future violence.” (Danne, PG).
Successful intervention programs should also take other factors, such as drug and alcohol use, into account; they must also target specific times of day, because statistics indicate that violent juvenile crime peaks immediately after school, and again at approximately 10 p.m. It’s also of interest to note that crime peaks at various times of the year as well, with the highest rates coinciding with the beginnings of the semesters. Also, a successful intervention program has to take weapons into account (unfortunately).
... the funding allotted to the prevention of programs for school violence has been spent on unproductive programs (Mendel, 2000). However, there has ... research to the areas of stages of violence development, prevention and intervention, and methods of identifying the most effective ... more research needed in the field of youth violence. Students, parents, school staff and the community should have a sense ...
And finally, it should also recognize that both boys and girls are victims of violence, though in different ways. Boys who have experienced violence may become violent offenders; girls who have been exposed to it may become victims of violence in dating and marital relationships. The intervention program has to take gender into account.
“Prevention and intervention programs must reflect the needs of the children, the community, the school, and the family. Successful programs are flexible and based in knowledge of the problem of violence and violence-related behaviors among youths. Prevention and intervention programs must be comprehensive programs looking at the child or adolescent as a whole person, not just isolating one problem behavior. … Successful prevention and intervention programs cannot be one-size-fits-all programs, they must fit varied needs and problems they are intended to address.” (Danne, PG).
Obviously, then, an intervention program targeted to the needs of individual students will have to separate the at-risk student from his/her peer group.
One of the areas that is rarely mentioned in connection with school safety is the physical layout of the building itself. Schools are often old buildings with dark halls and stairwells where students are crammed together, many times out of sight of teachers and supervisors.
In an article entitled ‘Creating a Safe Haven’ Dennis Young considers school safety from an architectural standpoint. He says that security devices such as ID cards and alarm systems are not enough, and suggests schools rethink their physical layout.
... brainstorm strategies for working with disruptive students. Training in violence prevention-for other staff such as school bus drivers, as well as teachers ... a strong relationship between student violence and use and sale of drugs, administrators make special efforts to keep schools drug-free, through both ...
Young advocates bringing back the old idea of one main door that would give security personnel a single access point to monitor. However, he stresses that this entry point should open onto a large, high-ceilinged, well-lighted area—an atrium—where special lighting might highlight student art, for instance. It should be a pleasant, welcoming place for students to meet their friends and begin their day. He also advocates widening and straightening hallways and putting lockers down the sides, eliminating ‘locker bays’ where violence often occurs.
He suggests that stairwells also be widened, well-lit, and if possible, glazed on the outside, so that students can see out and adults can see in. This would create feelings of spaciousness and safety.
Finally, Young says that classrooms, as well as ‘assembly’ spaces(libraries, gyms, auditoriums), should be designed with their use in mind. Suiting the structure to its task creates a safe haven. He also believes that assembly areas are some of the most threatening in a school; he uses the cafeteria—crowded, noisy, and impersonal—as an example of a space that is not conducive to positive interactions. Some schools and universities have begun designing such areas along the lines of successful restaurants and mall ‘food courts’, abandoning the rigid rectangular cafeteria model for smaller tables, random placement, plants, light, and a feeling of spaciousness and security. A pleasant environment tends to foster positive feelings, and this in turn lessens school violence. I believe Young’s architectural take on the situation is unique and worth noting.
School violence is an unpleasant fact of life, but these methods seem to offer workable suggestions for ways to address the problem. At least they represent a start, but until we as a society come to terms with our love of force, they remain only a start.
Cartland, Jenifer, Holly S. Ruch-Ross and David B. Henry. “Feeling at Home in One’s School: A First Look at a New Measure.” Adolescence Summer 2003, v38: 305-320. Retrieved 20 Nov 2003 from The Gale Group, San Diego Public Library, San Diego, CA:
Daane, Diane M. “Child and Adolescent Violence.” Orthopaedic Nursing Jan-Feb 2003, v22: 9+. Retrieved 20 Nov 2003 from The Gale Group, San Diego Public Library, San Diego, CA: //web6.infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/infomark/842/950/42066527w6/purl=rc1_ITOF_0_A97483618&dyn=25!xrn_12_0_A97483618?sw_aep=sddp_main
... Center, Vista Hill Foundation, Scholarship of Excellence, Greater San Diego Inner-City Games, San Diego Junior Theater, Child Abuse Prevention Foundation. Club 55 Teen ... was named defensive MVP of the Avocado league in high school. Parade magazine named him an All-American. He lettered in ... . Off the field he is an inspiration for thousands of young kids all over the country. He helps his community by ...
O’Neill, Robert E., Jesse W. Johnson, Richard Kiefer-O’Donnell and John J. McDonnell. “Preparing Teachers and Consultants for the Challenge of Severe Problem Behavior.” Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions Spring 2001, v3: 101+. Retrieved 20 Nov 2003 from The Gale Group, San Diego Public Library, San Diego, CA: //web6.infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/infomark/842/950/42066527w6/purl=rc1_ITOF_0_A73308255&dyn=18!xrn_21_0_A73308255?sw_aep=sddp_main
Young, Dennis. “Creating a Safe Haven.” American School & University 1 Apr 2003, v75: NA. Retrieved 20 Nov 2003 from The Gale Group, San Diego Public Library, San Diego, CA: